Curtis: Baseball is dying — except at the bookstore

From Bryan Curtis at on May 28, 2014, with mention of SABR members Andy McCue, Rick Huhn, Kostya Kennedy, Mark Armour, Jane Leavy, John Thorn, Pete Palmer, and many others:

Before we talk about what’s new with baseball books — the author turns wearily to his nightstand — it’s worth admiring how many of these damn things there are. If baseball has been shoved down the batting order of American sports, you wouldn’t know from your Amazon recs. This new season, like every new season, has brought a fresh stack of baseball books. Let’s do an experiment. Let’s take just the histories and memoirs published in 2014. No Boys of Summer. No Ron Shandler fantasy guides. And let’s see if it’s possible to construct a full, decade-by-decade history of baseball: a Ken Burns documentary on a Kindle. Follow along.

A new century dawns. By which I mean the 20th century. For wisdom about the aughts, I’ll turn to the new biography of Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley (born: 1903). For the teens: Rick Huhn’s The Chalmers Race: Ty Cobb, Napoleon Lajoie, and the Controversial 1910 Batting Title That Became a National Obsession is the kind of baseball book that springs from awesomely nerdy specificity. Too awesomely nerdy? Well, there’s pundit George F. Will’s tribute to Wrigley Field (opened: 1914).

The 1920s were the childhood years of the subjects of William C. Kashatus’s Jackie & Campy (a book that will necessarily involve Walter O’Malley). From the ’30s, there’s a new book about Babe Ruth’s called shot, because of course there is.

The ’40s mark a return to specificity: A Summer to Remember: Bill Veeck, Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller and the 1948 Cleveland Indians. Same with the ’50s: 1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever (another book that will necessarily involve Walter O’Malley).

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Originally published: May 28, 2014. Last Updated: May 28, 2014.